I was teaching a unit on Workplace Ministry at a theological college and I asked the class of 24 students how many had been visited in their workplace, by their pastor. Two hands went up. The first student told us how he was a barista in a café, and the pastor had coffee with him, then asked how the church could have access to discounted catering. The second student revealed that his pastor was fascinated by the tour he gave him of the factory where he worked, and then proceeded to use the things he had seen as sermon illustrations for the next few months.
Neither pastor had spoken to the students about the work they were doing, the challenges they faced, or about the gospel needs in the workplace. Both pastors were more focused on what the church could extract from the workplace.
Yet, neither student would ever forget that their pastor had visited them at work. Visiting church members in their place of works has multiple benefits:
- It increases the confidence of pastors in addressing the issues of faith and work integration.
- It is incredibly affirming for church members, helping to validate where they spend the majority of their waking lives.
- It provides opportunities for pastors to gather sermon illustrations, pick up observations and application for sermon application, and look for opportunities for gospel renewal of the workplace.
- Once visited, it opens up follow-up prospects such as an interview in church, or networking with others, or even simply more targeted chatting after church.
- It helps pastors see what the training needs are for workplace Christians in their congregations.
Think it through
Has your pastor ever visited you in your workplace?
If not, what is stopping you asking your church leader to visit you?
What does the Bible say?
Theologian Greg Forster provides some biblical inspiration for visiting the workplace: the fact that Jesus visited workplaces. Forster quotes R. Paul Stevens in his book Work Matters that 122 out of 132 public appearances by Jesus were in the marketplace. Jesus spent the majority of his life humbly working in an ordinary job. He demonstrated his awareness of the workplace through his parables with 45 of 52 parables set in the marketplace: “fields, sheepfolds, vineyards, kitchens, palaces, courts, fisheries, and more.”
You can do your own exploration reading through the Gospel of Matthew:
- Where did Jesus spend his time in Matthew’s Gospel? (Clues: chapters 2–4, 8–9, 11, 13–17, 21, 26)
- What did he teach about? (Focus on chapters 5–7)
- What illustrations did Jesus use? (Find aspirational images, animals, working situations, his own working context, Old Testament heroes)
If you want to invite your pastor to visit you, here is a sample invitation from author and pastor Tom Nelson:
I hope this note finds you well. I have something important I would like to discuss with you.
I’ve been thinking about how my faith intersects with my work lately and would love your counsel. When your schedule permits, I would like to buy you lunch and discuss how to better minister in the area of influence in which God has placed me here at work. Rather than meet at a restaurant, I’d like you to come by my place of work first, so you can have an idea about what I do between Sundays. I also think it would be great for you to meet some of my co-workers so that perhaps some of their misconceptions about pastors can be corrected. It might even open an opportunity to invite them to our church. Most importantly, I highly respect your leadership and ministry in my life and would be delighted to spend more time getting to know you on a personal level. Please let me know what dates would work best for you.
You created this world, worked with us and walked with us.
You visited us with angelic messengers.
You visited in visions and dreams.
You visited us on earth in the shape of Jesus.
Jesus visited so many places of work.
Help us as workers to invite our pastor to our work.
Help us as workers to support other workers.
Inspire pastors to visit workplaces.
Grant us new insights into our workplaces as we share what we see.
Build our knowledge of how our work can be impacted by the gospel.
Kara Martin is the author of Workship: How to Use Your Work to Worship God, and Workship 2: How to Flourish at Work. She is also a lecturer with Mary Andrews College. Kara has worked in media and communications, human resources, business analysis and policy development roles, in a variety of organisations, and as a consultant. Kara has a particular passion for integrating our Christian faith and work, and helping churches connect with the workers in their congregations. She is currently conducting research on how to effectively equip workplace Christians to integrate their faith and work.